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Public And Youth Engaged Through Phenology

John Muir National Historic Site

National Park News

Through a partnership with the Phenology Stewardship Program at University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and the Californian Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit (CESU), John Muir National Historic Site recently hosted a phenology monitoring workshop for the local public and staff.

The event attracted 25 enthusiastic participants and marked the beginning of a pilot project to monitor plant phenology - the timing of seasonal biological events - and to engage local citizen scientists. The park is utilizing this opportunity to introduce local youth to environmental education and career exploration opportunities.

John Muir NHS has become the seventh pilot park in the three-year-long, climate change response program-funded California Phenology Project (CPP), a collaboration between the NPS, UCSB, the CESU, and the National Coordinating Office of the National Phenology Network.

Using national parks as case studies, the purpose of CPP is to test various monitoring approaches, including citizen engagement, as a basis for understanding impacts of climate change on plants, animals and people, and to promote public education and action through communication of the related science.

Phenology has been gaining much traction globally as a practical and an effective indicator of climate change. The observation of phenological events, such as the fruiting of plants and migrating of animals, is both an innate way for people to connect to nature and a basic method for tracking changes over time.

John Muir NHS has built local partnerships with the Martinez Unified School District (MUSD), community leaders, and friends groups to help implement long-term phenological monitoring within the park and to expand education, outreach and training throughout the greater community.

The workshop, held on November 27th, began with a presentation on the background of phenology, climate change and the CPP, followed by hands-on plant identification and phenology monitoring field exercises and a discussion on possible monitoring sites and target plant species. It ended with the establishment of the first monitoring site, a conversation on program logistics, and a closing ceremony of appreciation.  Student interns and park volunteers will help monitor phenology of plants at the initial sites throughout the year. Additional monitoring sites may be added in the future.

This effort is part of a larger park initiative to answer the Call to Action, which challenges the NPS with connecting people to parks, advancing our education mission and enhancing the agency's ability to help preserve America's special places within and beyond NPS boundaries. This project helps meet action items 5, 7 and 18, all of which have been adopted by the park for 2012.


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